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Uri: Signals & lessons

| PATRALEKHA CHATTERJEE
Published : Sep 22, 2016, 12:38 am IST
Updated : Sep 22, 2016, 12:38 am IST

There are many ways you can react to the dastardly terrorist attack on the Army camp in Uri, close to the Line of Control with Pakistan.

There are many ways you can react to the dastardly terrorist attack on the Army camp in Uri, close to the Line of Control with Pakistan. Personally, the one image that brought home the human toll of terror was the teardrop rolling down the cheeks of one of the three daughters of slain soldier Naik Sunil Kumar Vidyarthi, among the 18 killed in the pre-dawn attack.

That image of the young girl who had just lost her father knocked one in the jaw. But the three sisters did not let grief immobilise them. Along with their classmates, they headed towards school and took their first semester examinations. That is what their father would have wanted them to do, they said.

This is what living with terrorism means.

Since the attack on the Uri Army camp, experts have spouted zillions of words on what India should do, can do and the pros and cons of each step. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is all set to take over the probe into the Uri attack. The discussions on prime time television will go on.

As an ordinary citizen, what concerns me most is the security lapse.

If an Army base in one of the highest security zones in the country is not secure, how secure are we More important, what should be done to instil a sense of security among common men and women who are bombarded with images of terrorism’s deadly touch

Media reports suggest that the terrorists or fidayeens (suicide squad) which carried out the Uri strike sneaked into the Army camp by cutting the fence. They also seemed to be familiar with the camp’s layout. They fired grenades, setting aflame the diesel barrels lying inside the complex. Soldiers sleeping in tents were trapped in the engulfing flames. It was death by fire for 17 of them. One more died the next day.

The terrorists are dead. But the questions the attack pose will not go away. How did the terrorists get in How does someone cut a fence to an Army camp without setting off an alarm Even a thief who tries to break into a car or a home would trigger an alarm. Cutting a fence would take more than a few minutes. Then there are other questions. Why were the soldiers sleeping in tents which were not even flame-retardant Why did the Army camp not have a boundary wall How many Army camps or military installations do we have without basic protection, especially in such vulnerable spots

Media reports also mention that the four terrorists were dressed in Army fatigues, their hair was cut short. “They did not look like a suicide squad,” an official told a leading newspaper. What do terrorists look like Did Ajmal Kasab look like a terrorist What lessons have we learnt from past attacks

A Sri Lankan journalist friend says the Uri attack reminded him of the attack on the Katunayake Air Force base and airport way back in 2001. In a pre-dawn attack, 14 members of the LTTE Black Tiger suicide squad infiltrated the base, located about 35 km from capital Colombo. They destroyed the electricity transformers, plunging the whole area into darkness; they cut through the barbed wire surrounding the base and began their attack. They used rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank weapons and assault rifles to hit at Sri Lankan Air Force planes.

The terror strike at Uri was not as huge but certainly among the deadliest that India has seen in recent years. The similarity between the two was the ease with which terrorists could get inside a supposedly secure zone. To an ordinary citizen, what is deeply worrying are these repeated security lapses. They suggest lack of adequate surveillance and preparedness.

There have been similar critical security breaches in India in the past. The attack on Parliament House comes to mind at once. In January this year, there was another terrorist attack, the one on the Pathankot base of the Indian Air Force.